TITLE: The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together by Lorna Yee and Ali Bayse (Sasquatch Books, $22.50; 240 pages)
Generally speaking: Summer wedding season is upon us and if you need a gift, The Newlywed Kitchen, alone or paired with some fun kitchen items, would be one idea. Most recipes serve two but are easily adjusted for more.
For: Any couples that enjoy cooking together, newlywed status not necessary.
Recipes: Cuban roast sandwiches, grilled porterhouse steak with blue cheese butter, frozen chocolate dipped key lime pie pops, Nutella doughnuts, warm mushroom salad with ginger soy vinaigrette and turkey sausage.
Love story: Scattered throughout the book are love stories from what the authors call "well-known foodies from around the country." I did not recognize any names, and most of them are on the West Coast, but there are some nice stories.
TITLE: Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare Bones Budget by Amy McCoy (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $16.99; 222 pages)
Generally speaking: The title, Poor Girl Gourmet, could indicate that foods we love aren't affordable and can't be included in meals. Not so. McCoy uses some ingredients that are not cheap but pairs them with less expensive items to make a nice dish. Many of the dishes are hearty.
For: Individuals and families who are tightening their budget and those who like to cook. McCoy stresses the importance of learning to cook to keep costs down. Each recipe offers the number of servings and the cost for the dish. Most feed 4 people for $15 or less.
Recipes: Quick white beans with bacon, spicy pancetta and peas, roasted chicken legs with olives, oatmeal-wheat beer bread, goat cheese risotto, smashed sugar-roasted sweet potatoes, and pasta with ricotta and prunes.
Word of warning: A few recipes, not many, require special equipment such as canning supplies.
Educate yourself: Read the information at the beginning of the cookbook to understand just exactly what the Poor Girl Gourmet is all about. McCoy has a lot of good pointers.
TITLE: Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes From Southern Appalachia by Joan E. Aller (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $27.99; 212 pages)
Generally Speaking: It is well known that the South has deep culinary traditions. You'll find many recipes from country inns throughout Appalachia as well as regional fare.
For: Anyone who enjoys regional cooking with wonderful stories about the area. Aller includes tidbits about storytelling, quilting and more throughout the book.
Recipes: Pepper pot soup, orange flower tea cakes, Tennessee cheddar puffs, wild greens salad, bacon muffins, hush puppies, pork chops and homemade Appalachian wine.
A bit disappointing: One recipe that sounds especially delicious is for warm Camembert salad with apples and walnuts. The list of ingredients calls for white wine vinaigrette, either homemade or store-bought. It's disappointing Aller doesn't include a recipe, especially when she includes some other dressing recipes. The ingredient list also omits the puff pastry shells necessary to present the cheese. The lesson here is to always read through the recipes, especially before making your list and heading to the store.
Steamed Clams in White Wine With Chorizo
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion
¼ pound dried chorizo links, thinly sliced
1 small tomato, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup chicken stock
Small pinch red pepper flakes
2 lemon wedges, for garnish
Fresh parsley, chopped for sprinkling
In a Dutch oven with a lid, combine olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the chorizo and let it brown for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato, garlic, clams, wine, chicken stock and red pepper flakes and cover to allow the clams to steam. After about 3 to 5 minutes all the clams should have opened (discard any that have refused to open after 5 minutes). Season the broth with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the clams and broth into two big bowls and garnish with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of parsley. Dip thick slices of your favorite bread in the broth.
Source: The Newlywed Kitchen: Delicious Meals for Couples Cooking Together by Lorna Yee and Ali Bayse (Sasquatch Books, 2010)
Garlicky Tomatoes and Olives With
1 (13.25-ounce) box whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded, coarsely chopped
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
½ cup packed parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup feta cheese crumbles
Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water according to package directions. You are looking to be on the al dente side of those directions.
While the spaghetti cooks, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and olives and saute until tomatoes are softened and heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.
Drain the spaghetti, reserving 1 cup of its cooking water. Add the pasta to the saute pan with the tomatoes and olives, then pour in the pasta cooking water and give it all a good stir to combine. Add the parsley, stirring once more. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top each person's plate with 1 tablespoon of the feta cheese crumbles.
Source: Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare Bones Budget by Amy McCoy (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2010)
Mountain Molasses Stack Cake
For the cake:
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
½ cup molasses
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
For the filling:
3 cups finely chopped apples
½ cup water
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour the bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans. To make the cake, cream the brown sugar and butter in a bowl until light. Add the egg and molasses and blend well. Beat in the buttermilk, vanilla and nutmeg.
In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Pour half of the batter into each prepared cake pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on their pans on a wire rack. While the cakes are cooling, make the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the apples and water. Cook, stirring, until the apples are tender. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook the mixture until a light syrup forms.
Place one of the cooled cake layers on a serving plate and spread half of the filling on top. Place the second layer on top and spread the remaining filling to cover the top. Makes 1 (8-inch) layer cake.
Source: Cider Beans, Wild Greens and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia by Joan E. Aller (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2010)